Kern Pacific Construction


Apr 4, 2011

Reliable Komatsu equipment reduces downtime

Kern Pacific Construction Owner/President Grant Meenach has seen his share of tough economic conditions in the construction industry. He credits the Bakersfield company’s ability to weather the storm to being adaptable.

“I’ve been in the industry more than 30 years, and I’ve learned that you have to judge the market,” said Meenach, who founded Kern Pacific in 1998. His son Justin is Vice President. “It’s OK to focus your attention on one segment for a while, but eventually you have to look at other areas because you can’t ride one forever.”

Thirteen years ago, Meenach’s focus was a strong housing market in which Kern Pacific began offering full site packages to residential developers. As the company quickly grew, Meenach began working with commercial clients as well. Kern Pacific’s offerings include specialization in wet and dry utility installation, as well as mass and final grading and paving. A sister company, Kern Video, offers pipeline testing, cleaning and inspection.

“Housing was so strong for about 10 years that we didn’t need to make a big push in other areas,” noted Meenach, who recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept a California Businessman of the Year Award. “I knew that eventually the housing market would take a downturn, and the commercial side would remain strong for a while afterward to support the influx of new housing. That turned out to be the case about four years ago.”

While commercial remained buoyant for a time, Meenach knew that wouldn’t last. With both the housing and commercial markets anemic, he turned his attention to public-works projects into which the vast majority of Kern Pacific’s work now falls. On many of these jobs, the company acts as a general contractor, including the McCutchen Road and Ash Road improvement projects it recently completed in Bakersfield.

Staff helps complete jobs on time, budget

Both were part of the city of Bakersfield’s upgrade of its new sewer plant. The McCutchen Road project came first, followed by Ash Road. In total, Kern Pacific installed about two miles of 36-inch main sewer line as well as road improvements that include new curb and gutter, pavement, street lighting and grading for a future park.

“My background prior to starting the company was utility installation, so that’s an area I’m well familiar with, and we often do jobs like those,” said Meenach, who has about 40 people on staff. “We’re able to get them done on time and on budget because a terrific group of experienced professionals work here. That includes not only field workers, but the office staff as well.”

Key members of the staff include Controller Marni Bradshaw, Human Resources Manager Dawn Anderson, Superintendent of Field Operations Greg Karns, Chief Estimator Richard Moore and Estimator Gary Roush.

Karns led the company’s completion of the new Mesa Marin Sports Complex, where Kern Pacific did a turnkey project that involved construction of new ball diamonds. Associated work included constructing dugouts, a prefab concession building, utilities, and concrete and brick walkways.

Komatsu “runs and runs”

The Mesa Marin and road improvement projects highlight the range of work Kern Pacific is able to perform with its fleet of Komatsu equipment, including tight-tail-swing and larger excavators, wheel loaders and an articulated haul truck. Its most recent purchase was a 184,000-pound PC800LC-8 with a long arm, put to use for deep digs on Ash Road, which at times were more than 30 feet.

“One goal is to always top the production on which we base our bid, and with the PC800 we were able to do that relatively easily,” said Meenach, who worked with Road Machinery Territory Manager Roger Cox to purchase the excavator. “On Ash Road, we bid 15 lengths of pipe per day, but got double that using the PC800. That’s a huge advantage, which is something we’ve always had with Komatsu equipment.”

Komatsu has been in Kern Pacific’s fleet virtually since the business’ beginning, when Meenach purchased a PC220LC-5 excavator and, not long after, a WA320-3 wheel loader. “I’ve kept buying Komatsu equipment because its durability means it runs and runs without costing us downtime. And, when I believe it’s time to trade or sell, Komatsu holds its value. We’ve put up to 15,000 hours on a wheel loader without doing much more than routine maintenance.”

For warranty issues or service beyond routine, Meenach turns to Road Machinery’s Bakersfield branch. “When I started buying Komatsu equipment, Road Machinery wasn’t the dealer in this area, but I still called on them for service. They sent a technician to us from their Perris branch, so that says a lot about the value Road Machinery places on customer service. I couldn’t be happier that they’re so close now, and Roger is great to work with.”

Word-of-mouth referrals

Meenach believes a superior level of customer service with quality in mind helped his company grow. “Much of our work has come from word-of-mouth referral. That helped us get to know and do work for many developers, which in turn helped us grow into doing larger public-works jobs. I’m sure as time goes on, we’ll see a transition back to more housing and commercial work. When that time comes, we’ll be ready.”